In what feels like the most obvious business decision of the century, YouTube now offers free TV shows with ads. This is different from the legally-questionable TV show uploads that have occupied YouTube since its inception—YouTube is actually licensing these shows from networks, just as it licenses movies.
Starting today, YouTube offers around 4,000 legally-licensed episodes of TV shows. Some of the more notable shows include Hell’s Kitchen, Andromeda, and Heartland. The company says it will expand its library of free shows throughout the year, though it hasn’t announced future additions to its service.
These shows are totally free—you don’t need a YouTube TV subscription or anything like that. Just open the YouTube app on your streaming stick or smart TV and navigate to the “Movies and Shows” tab. (You can also stream these free shows on the YouTube website or mobile app, though you have to look them up manually.)
Now, YouTube isn’t doing anything unique here. It’s simply joining the free streaming trend that competitors like Crackle, Pluto TV, and The Roku Channel already rely upon. Note that Hell’s Kitchen, Andromeda, and Heartland are already available through some of these rival services.
YouTube claims that it will add 100 new free episodes and movies to its library every week. That sounds like a pretty ambitious goal, though I should point out that most syndicated shows have over 100 episodes.